Why is bacteria so quickly becoming resistant to antibiotics and yet cooking your food still effectively kills all the bacteria?


Why is bacteria so quickly becoming resistant to antibiotics and yet cooking your food still effectively kills all the bacteria?

In: Biology

As a human for example you can grow resistance to some chemicals, some bacteria, virus, environmental conditions… but you won’t be able to grow resistance to getting shot in the head! (or boiled alive)

One is a chemical process – antibiotics can interfere with bacteria reproducing or break down their cell walls. Some bacteria eventually develop resistances to those mechanisms.

The other is physical process – heat literally burns bacteria away or tears it apart. Even then, some bacteria are resistant to heat which is why you need to raise certain foods to a minimum temperature for a period of time for it to be safe.

Imagine you’re in the army and you have a tank. The enemy is trying to disable your tank. First they sneak in and cut the fuel line and the tank is disabled. You see this and move the fuel line so that it isn’t readily accessible and is protected. This is resistance.

There is another way to disable the tank. You could drop a nuclear bomb on it. This is cooking.

There are some things that will kill everything alive, such as enough heat to cook food. The reason it kills everything alive is that these things target something common to all living thngs. In this case, it’s being mostly water and molecules that rapidly lose shape if they are heated above a certain point.

Antibiotics, on the other hand, kill bacteria by stopping some process that bacteria have, but either humans don’t or that isn’t as important to us. For example, penicillin works by stopping bacterial cell wall synthesis. Our cells don’t have cell walls, so this is why we can survive antibiotics, but the bacteria cannot. When bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, they have a mutation that either causes the molecule the antibiotic targeted to be too different a shape to be recognized, or the antibiotic gets spat out of the cell faster than it can seep in, or a variety of other methods. None of the things bacteria have to do to be resistant to antibiotics are fundamentally incompatible with being alive. This is how it’s different from cooking.

People don’t always take the full course of prescribed antibiotics because they ‘feel better’ and think they don’t need too. This in turn leads to the bacteria becoming stronger – if you don’t take all the medicine you don’t kill all the bacteria.
Think of it like a reverse vaccine situation. We get a small dose of the flu (for example) with the vaccine to teach our body how to become stronger and fight the flu. Essentially that’s what happens with bacteria when you don’t take all the antibiotics, the bacteria only gets a small dose of it and learns how to become stronger to fight it next time.